HOW should I read the Bible?

Bible Versions

The Bible was originally hand-written on scrolls and each copy was hand-written until the 1400’s when the printing press was invented.  Therefore, copies were limited and sometimes contained errors.

  • Old Testament – Originally written in Hebrew & Aramaic
  • New Testament – Originally written in Greek, although some scholars have suggested that the New Testament was also originally written in Hebrew

As time passed and the Bible was shared with people from other nations, there was a need to translate the Bible into different languages.  Some versions are translated from the original texts or original languages, while others are translations of existing versions.  In general there are 3 types of translation:

  1. Word-for-word
  2. Thought-for-thought
  3. Paraphrase

Notable Versions

  1. Septuagint is a word-for-word translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek completed around 100 BC.  It is sometimes called the LXX (70) in honor of the 70 scholars that worked on the translation.  For more information about the Septuagint, visit www.Septuagint.net1.
  2. Latin Vulgate Bible was completed by St. Jerome in AD 405 as commissioned by Pope Damascus I.  The Old and New Testaments were both translated word-for-word from the original languages to Latin.  For more information about the Latin Vulgate Bible, visit www.Vulgate.org2.
  3. Wycliffe Bible was completed in 1384 and it is the first English version translated from Latin.  It is also the first version in which the scriptures are divided into chapters.  For more information on the Wycliffe Bible, visit www.Wycliffe.org3.
  4. Gutenberg Bible was the first printed version of the Bible.  It is a copy of the Latin Vulgate Bible printed in the 1450’s by Johann Gutenberg from Germany who invented the printing press.  For more information on the Gutenberg Bible, visit www.Gutenberg-Bible.com4.
  5. Geneva Bible was the first Bible to separate the scriptures into verses.  It was also the first Bible to include commentaries or notes.  It was produced in Geneva, Switzerland in 1560.  Although produced in Switzerland, it is an English translation.   For more information on the Geneva Bible, visit www.GenevaBible.org5.
  6. King James Version (KJV) was named for King James of Scotland & England and is probably the most popular version of the Bible and is considered by some to be the most accurate.  It was completed in 1611 and is a word-for-word translation of the original text.  For more information, visit

Below is a summary of the Bible versions previously mentioned, as well as some of the more popular modern versions.

YearBible Version (Abbreviation)Type*Special Notes
100BCSeptuagint (LXX)WOld Testament/Greek
400’sLatin Vulgate BibleWLatin
1300’sWycliffe Bible (WYC)WChapters; English
1400’sGutenberg BibleWPrinting Press
1500’sGeneva BibleWVerses Introduced
1600’sKing James Bible (KJV)WMost popular
1800’sEnglish Revised Version (ERV)WRevised KJV
1901American Standard Version (ASV)W 
1965Amplified Bible (AMP)W/T 
1971New American Standard Bible (NASB)W/T 
1973New International Version (NIV)T 
1982New King James Version (NKJV)W 
1996New Living Translation (NLT)T 
2002The Message (TM)P 

*W = Word for Word, T = Thought for Thought, P = Paraphrase

Personally, I read the New King James Version (NKJV), but I listen to the New International Version (NIV) on CD.  I’ve also used the New Living Translation (NLT) quite a bit lately and many preachers that I respect use the Amplified version (AMP). 

My advice is to read whatever version you can understand.  However, be cautious about versions of the Bible that are created for specific religious groups or denominations.   As your understanding increases, compare different versions.  Bible Gateway7, a site that I use and trust, has many online versions from which to choose.  Bible Gateway also provides the capability to view multiple versions side-by-side (i.e. parallel).